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Oil From the Exxon Valdez Spill Still Lingers On Alaska Beaches

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the sticking-around dept.

Earth 261

An anonymous reader writes "It's been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, and you can still find oil sticking to rocks. Worse yet, scientists say the oil could be around for decades yet to come. From the article: 'There are two main reasons why there's still oil on some of the beaches of the Kenai Fjords and Katmai National Parks and Preserves in the Gulf of Alaska, explains Gail Irvine, a marine ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead researcher on the study. When the oil first spilled from the tanker, it mixed with the seawater and formed an emulsion that turned it into a goopy compound, she says. "When oil forms into the foam, the outside is weathering, but the inside isn't," Irvine explains. It's like mayonnaise left out on the counter. The surface will crust over, but the inside of the clump still looks like mayonnaise, she explains.'"

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Mandatory Homer Simpson Response (1, Offtopic)

Biff Stu (654099) | about 8 months ago | (#46385447)

Mmmm....Mayonnaise.

Re:Mandatory Homer Simpson Response (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#46385459)

I will pay you $100 to take the blame

Homer Simpson Fan Page (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385591)

Oblig "Home Homer Page" (no homo)
 
  G. Oats E! [goatse.fr]

MOD PARENT UP!!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385599)

I laughed my butt off

Re:Mandatory Homer Simpson Response (0)

Cryacin (657549) | about 8 months ago | (#46385531)

Can we get a car analogy please?

Re:Mandatory Homer Simpson Response (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386377)

Can we get a car analogy please?

Woah, woah, woah...slow down there. I'm already lost at four tires. Can we get a motorcycle analogy first? Let's break this down...

Consequences... (5, Interesting)

Thantik (1207112) | about 8 months ago | (#46385453)

Consequences only exist for those too poor to fight them. Exxon should have been made responsible for taking care of the entire area until all the oil was cleaned up, but that would have driven them out of business...and we can't have that!

Re:Consequences... (4, Interesting)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#46385471)

to be fair, if you punished them so hard that they went out of business, then they wouldn't be able to clean up. ideally you punish them enough so they pay a lot while remaining in business a long time to continue to pay a lot.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385489)

"if you punished them so hard that they went out of business, then they wouldn't be able to clean up" So you're saying they should pay huge deposits before they get to do such potentially catastrophic shit? Agreed.

Re:Consequences... (2, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 8 months ago | (#46385841)

"if you punished them so hard that they went out of business, then they wouldn't be able to clean up" So you're saying they should pay huge deposits before they get to do such potentially catastrophic shit? Agreed.

Maybe this type of work, so important to all mankind, shouldn't be left in the hands of private enterprise?

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386005)

Apparently, you haven't been paying much attention to how the govenment has handled everything else so well and so cheaply...

Re:Consequences... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386083)

Government does some things really well. For example, the Social Security Administration is almost unfathomably efficient, compared to other large national or private retirement systems. For example, the overhead of SS is less than 3%, compared to something like 30% for Chile's privatized retirement system, lauded by conservatives.

The United States Post Office is also very economically efficient, especially considering how hemmed in they are by Congress. How people can both believe that post office workers are lazy, yet at the same time be so stressed out and overworked as to be the archetype for "going postal", I'll never understand. Cognitive dissonance at its finest.

Of course, if all you listen to are the whining pundits and conventional snark, you wouldn't realize this. But disimpassioned academic studies have shown these and other systems to be stellar performers.

OTOH, locating, recovering, shipping, and distributing oil and oil products is a very complex, capital intensive business with a rapid pace of development and subject to extreme market volatility. That's pretty much the opposite thing that government bureaucracies are good at. It's also why they find it hard to regulate such industries without unleashing a parade of unintended consequences. Nationalized oil companies are some of the most inefficient and corrupt bureaucracies ever established. To anybody who despises Exxon, Shell, etc, I suggest you take a look at companies like Pemex (Mexico), Petronas (Malaysia), etc, including their environmental impact. Many times when there's a spill they don't even bother trying to clean it up, let alone do a poor job of it.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386143)

Since neither private industry nor government can handle this effectively maybe we need to stop until we figure out some things to try to get better at it.

Re:Consequences... (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#46386141)

Because government managed petroleum removal (Gazprom, Petrobras) is so great....

Re:Consequences... (2)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 8 months ago | (#46386249)

The problem with this strategy is that you are restricting who can realistically go into the petroleum business, and thus restricting the competition. Perhaps forcing the companies to have a insurance to pay for cleaning up would be better? That would scale with the size of the operation, so it wouldn't force a oligopoly, while companies that did too little to safeguard their operation would be punished by higher insurance rates.

Re:Consequences... (5, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 8 months ago | (#46385529)

Asset forfeiture... Used on pot smokers all the time... Take it out of the board members' pockets.

Re:Consequences... (3, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 8 months ago | (#46385615)

There just aren't enough mod points for this post. We will have a decent society when we have a just society.

Re:Consequences... (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#46385797)

The problem lies in the definition of "just" - the term is too subjective.

Also, let's think more than two steps ahead here: sure, you could seize the assets of every board member - that would get you approximately what, a few hundred million? Maybe a couple of billion at first blush? Well, probably not: consider that most of their easily-seizable assets are tied up in the company's stock, and that such a simple announcement of seizure would cause that stock value to evaporate almost overnight. Hell, I doubt that you'd get even 1/10th of what the company was fined. Further consider that most folks at that level are smart enough to set up shell companies, trusts, and other instruments that would effectively shield the majority of their money from even the most zealous judge.

I'm certain that seizure of company board members' personal assets would make folks feel better, but these guys aren't stupid; therefore, your best (and most just) bet is to milk the company hard enough to get the point across (and to pay for cleanup), but not so hard as to gut the thing entirely. Another option is to convert the existing board members' stock into non-voting shares, have the stockholders elect a new board, and *then* go after the individual members in civil court for further seizures and sale of their stock holdings.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386451)

you could seize the assets of every board member - that would get you approximately what, a few hundred million? Maybe a couple of billion at first blush?

Yes, if you look at the taxed assets. That doesn't mean that they don't have valuables that are less taxable.
About $3.9 trillion of the national debt is to private entities. I would be surprised is not at least a part of that was to rich people in the oil industry.
Also, about $98 billion of the national debt is to oil companies directly. (Not the board members but the actual companies.)
The government could say "OK, we are going to spend $98 billion cleaning up your mess, if that isn't enough you will have to take care of the rest."
That would only make a dent in the oil companies saved (invested) assets without making a dent int their current profit.

Re:Consequences... (0, Flamebait)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 8 months ago | (#46385705)

Take it out of the board members' pockets.

...Because, of course, it's the board that chooses what route to take through a narrow channel, and the maintenance plan for the radar, and the sleeping schedule on the ship.

Maybe instead, it should be the ones who had direct control over the incident whom we hold directly responsible... but then, what punishment can be extracted from lowly ships' officers? How about $50,000 and community service [wikipedia.org] ?

We could always try to dig into the bureaucracy of the company and figure out exactly who ordered what bad things, but everybody has a long list of factors that went into their well-justified decisions. Hindsight's 20/20, of course, so it seems just to forgive them for what they couldn't have foreseen.

Or maybe, just maybe, we could abandon the idea of punishment as an effective means of change. It doesn't work for addicts, gamblers, criminals, or students, so why should it magically work for corporations? We could try adding incentives for doing good things, like allowing tax write-offs for new safety equipment, but then the public just whines about subsidizing the big companies.

Personally, I have a better idea: Let's just accept the fact that life is complicated and there are no easy answers, regardless of how fun it may be to blame those evil nasty rich folks.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385747)

The board members were the ones who were supposed to oversee the CEO, and make sure the he did his best to made things right.

The board members were the ones who profited from the cheap ass job and reduction in penalties.

Re:Consequences... (3, Insightful)

luckymutt (996573) | about 8 months ago | (#46385775)

Personally, I have a better idea: Let's just accept the fact that life is complicated and there are no easy answers, regardless of how fun it may be to blame those evil nasty rich folks.

So, your "better idea" is just to let bad shit(decisions) happen unaccountably, because life is complicated?

Re:Consequences... (2, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 8 months ago | (#46385801)

My better idea is to stop looking for scapegoats every time there's a catastrophe. Bad events happen because humans (including the suit-wearing ones) can't predict the future. Sometimes a whole set of good decisions lead to bad events, and we don't accomplish anything good be punishing people for things they can't foresee.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386527)

Sometimes a whole set of good decisions lead to bad events, and we don't accomplish anything good be punishing people for things they can't foresee.

Cutting margins for higher profits isn't a good decision. It is a decision made by someone who didn't understand why the margins were there to begin with.
Just saying "Shit happens" isn't a good way to handle the situation. Retroactively punishing greed might not be preferable to first informing about the consequences and then punish, but just letting it slide is worse.
So, you can't accurately predict that shit will happen. Well, then perhaps you shouldn't be allowed to call the shots in such a large operation?
Can't find anyone who can? Well, too bad, that doesn't mean you still have a right to make a profit.

Re:Consequences... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385805)

Personally, I have a better idea: Let's just accept the fact that life is complicated and there are no easy answers, regardless of how fun it may be to blame those evil nasty rich folks.

So, your "better idea" is just to let bad shit(decisions) happen unaccountably, because life is complicated?

One wonders if you voted to reelect Obama...

Re:Consequences... (4, Insightful)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 8 months ago | (#46385849)

Just accept it? Tough shit? I don't think so.

Punishment doesn't work on *individuals* because it's not reasonable to expect them to know all the nuance of laws affecting them in their daily lives.

Punishment works for *corporations* because they are have the resources and training to know what laws affect them as they go about their business. I don't disagree that there should be strong incentives for good safety protocols and environmental protection standards, but that should not preclude the use of equally strong disincentives for violations.

Regulatory control should not be so weak and subject to influence that gigantic corporations guilty of gross negligence actually have bargaining power in these situations; they need to be at the mercy of regulators and of the public.

Re:Consequences... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#46385873)

Regulatory control should not be so weak and subject to influence that gigantic corporations guilty of gross negligence actually have bargaining power in these situations; they need to be at the mercy of regulators and of the public.

That would be unjust. Justice means among other things that one who is accused of crimes is allowed to defend themselves.

Corporations are NOT people ('one') my friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386153)

Corporations are NOT people ('one' in your weak-ass defense) my friend.

No matter what your Saint Rmoney may say.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385927)

...Because, of course, it's the board that chooses what route to take through a narrow channel, and the maintenance plan for the radar, and the sleeping schedule on the ship.

No, but "the buck stops here". What if we turned the situation around and instead of an oil spill the captain, crew, or someone else intentionally caused a "leak" into a pirate oil ship? Would we refuse to confiscate and return the oil (or whatever money they get if we're too late) to the board because they didn't choose things? No, if the oil is the boards property, then the oil is the board's responsibility. To that end, even if the board didn't directly choose the route, the captain, the maintenance plan on the radar, etc, they're responsible for hiring the people who hired the people to do those things. Hence, they're at some level of culpable with odds being good it's greater than 50%.

Maybe instead, it should be the ones who had direct control over the incident whom we hold directly responsible... but then, what punishment can be extracted from lowly ships' officers? How about $50,000 and community service?

Sure, them too. It's not an either-or thing.

We could always try to dig into the bureaucracy of the company and figure out exactly who ordered what bad things, but everybody has a long list of factors that went into their well-justified decisions. Hindsight's 20/20, of course, so it seems just to forgive them for what they couldn't have foreseen.

Except how much of it was "what they couldn't have foreseen" and how much of it's handwaving to avoid "[trying] to dig into the bureaucracy of the company and figure out exactly who ordered what bad things"? Because the general complaint is precisely that when such situations do occur, there's often either (a) not enough effort to find out who did what and (b) not enough (followed) regulation that requires the paper trail to figure out who did what. The former makes it a pointless venture (and honestly the lack of punishment for not following regulation is the biggest problem) but the latter leaves too much room (when there actually is a lack of regulation) to people finger pointing after the fact and even when cornered to claim some vague point of hindsight being 20/20. That's simply not good enough when there's such a massive risk of ecological disaster which, sadly, happens too often.

Or maybe, just maybe, we could abandon the idea of punishment as an effective means of change. It doesn't work for addicts, gamblers, criminals, or students, so why should it magically work for corporations?

And what if it isn't an effective means of change? That doesn't mean punishment isn't justified. Why? Because punishment often comes to include being physical prevented from carrying out bad acts for at least some limited period of time. It's far from a perfect solution but doing nothing is absurd.

We could try adding incentives for doing good things, like allowing tax write-offs for new safety equipment, but then the public just whines about subsidizing the big companies.

That's great and all. But there's already massive tax write-offs for all sorts of much less important stuff. So, unless you plan to radically alter the tax subsidy scheme, I don't think it'll matter much in itself. Now, couple that with an incentive for workers to want to use said safety equipment, perhaps by some regulation requiring that they be trained on this "optional" equipment and you might see a reaction of some sort.

Personally, I have a better idea: Let's just accept the fact that life is complicated and there are no easy answers, regardless of how fun it may be to blame those evil nasty rich folks.

Life is complicated. That's reason enough to demand to know if (1) there was sufficient regulation for the situation, (2) said regulation was being followed, and (3) if any non-compliance is being properly dealt with, possibly including jail time. Usually, though, the conversation never gets all the way to (1) because to even suggest that we examine the regulation structure invariable causes people to put their fingers in their ears and stop listening while spouting their own personal political opinion about regulations in general. If we ever get past (1), we almost never hear the follow up on (2) and whether (3) is likely or even possible to lead to jail time for some individuals. I mean, (3) is a big reason why I wonder about (1) because even if punishment doesn't change behavior, having a CEO or Vice President or whoever order bad things to happen, directly or indirectly, be put in jail or prison for a year or two would at least mean a year or two of thing not doing the same thing again.

I mean, it's like 9/11. Just because the whole War on Terror was an absurd over reaction and we're now in a whole mess because of it doesn't mean Osama bin Laden shouldn't have been found, his role in the attacks assessed, and then a trial (if possible) held to punishment for any criminal acts. It's not some sort of rocket science that just because laws don't stop murderers or oil spills that we shouldn't likely make a host of new laws but we should honestly consider following through with the ones we have.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385533)

Or you nationalize them as part of the cost of the cleanup then handle it yourself.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385685)

Or you nationalize them as part of the cost of the cleanup then handle it yourself.

Why don't you go move yourself to Venezuela with you crazy socialist ideas.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385845)

Why don't you go move yourself to Venezuela with you crazy socialist ideas. Or, just stay at home. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Consequences... (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46385537)

How about they pay half of all profits until the problem is *solved*. Make it *hurt* so that they *never* want to have such a thing happen again.

Re:Consequences... (2)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 8 months ago | (#46385625)

While I understand the feeling, you can also make it hurt so much that they no longer bother.

What if they just sell off their assets and move on with life?

Think of it like child support, which already has gone too far in many cases. Many people are ordered to pay more than they really can (yes, there are deadbeats too), so they do work for cash to keep it "off the books".

You can only "punish" people so hard before they change their behavior, the harsher the punishment, the more they will change to avoid it.

Re:Consequences... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386007)

What if they just sell off their assets and move on with life?

Who would buy them if there is a standing order to clean up a mess before they can turn a full profit again? And who cares if they do? We want the beaches cleaned up first and foremost, and we want the assets that causes the fuck-up to pay the price. It doesn't really matter who holds the assets at any given time. Sure, revenge would be nice too.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#46386497)

What if they just sell off their assets and move on with life?

Who would buy them if there is a standing order to clean up a mess before they can turn a full profit again?

You assume they'd sell the whole thing in one go. Most folks who run a corporation are smart enough to start spinning off new companies, each taking a substantial chunk of the assets until all you have left of the old one is the name, an office somewhere, and maybe a desk and chair in it. If you're lucky there may be a working telephone on the desk.

Re:Consequences... (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46386027)

So what if they do? The entire concept of a corporation is a legal fiction, we can set the rules to be whatever we like.

Rule 1 - No corporation may engage in any activity in which the costs of repairing any public/environmental/etc. damage from a worst-case scenario cannot be covered by liquidating company assets. No hiding the assets behind shell corporations allowed.

Rule 2 - In the aftermath of a catastrophe if corporate assets fall to within N% of the estimated recovery costs the company will be immediately liquidated with all proceeds going to the recovery efforts. No bleeding a company dry on your way out the door.

Problem solved?

Re:Consequences... (0)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 8 months ago | (#46386131)

No, that doesn't solve the problem...

Exxon is publicly owned (and widely held), if you destroy it, then what you're really doing is taking it all out of millions of American's (and people from around the world) savings.

You could, perhaps, make the argument that a privately owned corporation could be put under such rules, but if you go around and start playing whack-a-mole with large public companies, you're really just hurting everyone.

Re:Consequences... (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46386161)

So? If you don't want to risk your savings don't invest in companies that take big risks - it's hardly a new investment strategy. What difference does it make if the company is privately owned or publicly traded? You own a percentage of a company, you always take the risk that it goes belly up tomorrow for unexpected reasons. Stockholders are already protected by the corporate veil from any losses beyond their stock tanking, why should they get any extra consideration?

Re:Consequences... (1)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 8 months ago | (#46386183)

That is a nice idea, but now how the world works...

Your average investor who owns stock via their 401(k) or other mutual fund investment isn't able to make such choices...

You would harm the economy and put investment capital at risk in new ways, the law of unintended consequences applies here. Your ideals are good, but your methods would have results far different from what you intend.

Re:Consequences... (2)

DarkOx (621550) | about 8 months ago | (#46386445)

It would definitely have the effect of reorganizing markets. I would go farther and make the shareholders responsible for companies debts as well in a bankruptcy. If you don't want to risk getting on the other side of financial sell the company bonds which will now be safer because I'll be back by the shareholders pocketbooks, of course you can't get all the upside only whatever the preagreed amount of interest is.

The current system that really is socialized risk and losses and private gains. While it has the effect of driving a lot of investment capital I'm not sure it's ultimately win for society. I'm not even sure it's really free-market in spirit

Re:Consequences... (2)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 8 months ago | (#46386261)

No corporation may engage in any activity in which the costs of repairing any public/environmental/etc. damage from a worst-case scenario cannot be covered by liquidating company assets.

This will severely restrict the number of companies who can work in any given field, leading to lack of competition and all of the inefficiencies that follows from that.

Why not allow the companies to take out insurance for such events? That would (ideally) make the payment scale directly with the risk of failure, so that new companies can start a small operation without massive investments, and so that companies that have bad policies are punished for having the bad policies, not for the failures that these policies cause.

Re:Consequences... (1, Flamebait)

u38cg (607297) | about 8 months ago | (#46386543)

No, and there is literally no point in you flapping your jaw about this issue because you understand so little about it.

Re:Consequences... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#46386263)

You can only "punish" people so hard before they change their behavior, the harsher the punishment, the more they will change to avoid it.

Maybe it could get them to stop doing trillions of dollars in damage. That changed behavior is good.

Re:Consequences... (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 8 months ago | (#46386417)

Gee and here I thought the point of punishing people is to get them to change their behavior. Clearly the difference between punishment and restitution is too complex for Slashdot grasp

Re:Consequences... (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 8 months ago | (#46385727)

You say that like you think every executive gets out of bed in the morning saying "Today, I'm going to fuck over the world. I think I'll start with that pesky Alaskan wildlife."

Re:Consequences... (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46385909)

No, but they seem to mostly get out of bed and say "Today I'm going to make a lot of money, and fuck anyone/thing who gets hurt in the process"

Re:Consequences... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#46386633)

You say that like you think every executive gets out of bed in the morning saying "Today, I'm going to fuck over the world. I think I'll start with that pesky Alaskan wildlife."

Close enough. "Today, I'm going to go make some money, and if it hurts people, fuck 'em." Explain in detail why that is not accurate if you disagree — it seems to match up perfectly with the behavior of every petroleum company.

Re:Consequences... (2)

uncqual (836337) | about 8 months ago | (#46385755)

Perhaps we should assess every person (and their heirs if they are no longer alive) who bought gasoline from Exxon over the prior 20 years an annual surcharge. After all, they presumably benefited in the form of lower prices derived from Exxon (and most everyone else) not using more collision resistant tankers. These people should have, instead, sought out the most ecologically friendly oil company's products - they instead chose to bury their heads in the sand and go with the lowest cost gasoline and were a substantial beneficiary of Exxon's judgement to use today's (at the time) technology instead of refusing to ship oil until they had purchased and deployed better technology.

(See how this works?)

Re:Consequences... (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#46386279)

The customers have no knowledge of, nor ability to change, Exxon's practices. Even if *nobody* bought Exxon gasoline, they would have bought gasoline handled by Exxon. They just wouldn't have known.

Re:Consequences... (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#46386507)

Then again, no one on the board knew of the captain's little toke habit, and I doubt that they knew anything about the efficacy of their cleanup plan beforehand, at least outside of having some ostensibly smart consultants say "oh, this will work perfectly!"

Plausible deniability works in both directions too...

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385773)

how about they pay all profits until the problem is solved.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385859)

how about they pay all profits until the problem is solved.

Good Idea - just take all of the profits, then the stockholders will dump the stock, the company will be worthless, and YOU can pay for the cleanup.

By the way, Shareholders own the company - why don't you take a look at who owned Exxon stock at the time of the accident, bet you haven't a clue!

Re:Consequences... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46385969)

Alternate option - make it the norm that if a corporation fucks up badly enough that it can't make things right out of petty cash, then *all* stock is immediately frozen until the problem is solved. Give investors incentive to do their due diligence and avoid investing in anyone who's prone to cutting corners in ways that jeopardize the public.

Of course for that to work we might also need some supporting laws - for example knowingly selling off stock before a freeze should be treated as a particularly heinous form of insider trading. Maybe even let any recent buyers caught holding the bag bring class-action criminal charges against the sellers to avoid any problems with regulatory capture. Could make day-trading risky, but I don't think anyone but the brokers would be sorry to see them go.

Free insurance policy (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | about 8 months ago | (#46386081)

50% of profits as a cap on liability? Great!

Now smaller unprofitable oil companies can take big risks.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386605)

How about someone tell BP or Chevron that there's a huge easily-accessible "oil sands" deposit ready for strip mining? As the price of oil increases, this will make more and more financial sense.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385605)

How about we have a death sentence for corporations?
People are sentenced to death.
Corporations are people
So why aren't corporations ever sentenced to death?

Re:Consequences... (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#46385655)

Sentenced to death, so what? Is it better to get some cash see you can try to prove the situation?

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385905)

Or they simply tie up the charges in court for a couple decades & get the fines reduced to a relative pittance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]

Re:Consequences... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 8 months ago | (#46385981)

if you punished them for 30 billion dollars then you would have the 30 billion dollars for the cleanup and if it was too much the remaining tankers and oil refineries sold to highest bidder so I don't really see the downside there..

Re:Consequences... (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 months ago | (#46386087)

I don't really see the downside there..

I don't see it mentioned in this article, but I've read that part of the problem is that existing cleanup methods cause more damage to the enviornment than the oil does. The scrubbing, soaps and such required damages the coastline as well. It's faster to let it degrade naturally, though that can take decades with the colder temperatures up there.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 8 months ago | (#46386529)

if you punished them for 30 billion dollars then you would have the 30 billion dollars for the cleanup and if it was too much the remaining tankers and oil refineries sold to highest bidder so I don't really see the downside there..

...which would last only as long as it takes for prices at the gas pump to skyrocket, at which point the public would take up pitchforks and torches and demand that the company's assets be put back to work again immediately.

There really aren't that many oil companies out there, and taking one out would put a pretty big dent in the global logistics. Petroleum, like Spice, must flow.

Re:Consequences... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#46385515)

Exxon should have been made responsible for taking care of the entire area until all the oil was cleaned up

It would be far better to fine them, and then use the money for something that actually makes sense. Spraying harsh detergents into the water is doing more harm than good. Wiping rocks off with paper towels is just moving the oil from one place to another while consuming lots of paper towels. Neither would make much difference on a coastline a thousand miles long. Instead, the money should be spent on prevention: double hulled tankers, better navigation equipment, faster/better first responders, etc.

Re:Consequences... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385561)

double hulled tankers, better navigation equipment, faster/better first responders, etc. [emphasis mine]

So the first two ideas you come up with for where the money should go is right back to companies that transport oil? Do you honestly not see the problem here? How about this: write regulations that may prevent future incidents and then use the fine money to actually enforce those regulations, as opposed to the US American standard of vastly under-budgeting enforcement agencies.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385619)

(The "[emphasis mine]" would probably have made more sense if you could bold inside a quote, which apparently you can't. Imagine instead that I had written "[emphasis no one's]".)

Re:Consequences... (1)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 8 months ago | (#46385627)

"may prevent future accidents"

Sounds so nice, but as long as we're putting hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into a ship and sailing them around the world, there are going to be accidents.

Double hulls are largely already required, what else do we do?

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385651)

You can't prevent everything, of course. The best strategy, I feel, is that when an accident happens you should first investigate if there were existing regulations broken (and if so, find a better way of proactively enforcing those regulations), then see if there is anything you can learn from the accident to inform new regulations. It may be the case that there isn't anything new to learn -- shit happens, as the saying goes. If that's the case, more money for enforcement of regulations may not accomplish anything that would have prevented the accident in question, but may still prevent other, future accidents.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385661)

Double hulls are largely already required, what else do we do?

Triple hull?

Re:Consequences... (1)

uncqual (836337) | about 8 months ago | (#46385765)

I see your triple hull and raise you - quadruple hull should be required.

At some point, of course, the tanker will be carrying one quart of crude and tens or hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel to power the ship that carts that precious quart of crude around with "ultimate" safety. Occasionally the ship will crash and release all of its diesel fuel, but that quart of crude that is in the container with 20 one foot layers of stainless steel tanks around it will survive and won't sully a rock somewhere.

Re:Consequences... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385535)

Crude oil is an organic substance. As long as it isn't present is very high concentrations it does little harm. It is only ultra left wing hippies that are still complaining about the spill 25yrs later. ....and no I didn't read the article.

Re:Consequences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385583)

No kidding. The stuff has been seeping out of cracks in the ocean floor along the California coastline for as long as man has inhabited the area.

Re:Consequences... (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 8 months ago | (#46385683)

Pretty sure the radiation from tepco will dissolve the oil.

Re:Consequences... (3, Funny)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 8 months ago | (#46385761)

....and no I didn't read the article.

Thanks for letting us know--we'd never have guessed otherwise.

Fuck off (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385933)

Cyanide is also an organic substance.

Damn straight (-1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 8 months ago | (#46386079)

I'll bet you oppose Fracking... even though it means far less oil shipped across oceans.

Consequences. Consider them, fully.

Mayonnaise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385457)

Also like mayonnaise left out on the counter for too long, it is disgusting, toxic, and may harbor several species of bacteria previously unknown to science.

why the surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385501)

the surprising thing is being surprised million-year old oil lasting longer than 25 years

Re:why the surprise? (4, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 8 months ago | (#46385521)

Eventually, something will eat the oil. Oil is basically archaia bacterial poop originally made deep under ground.

Re:why the surprise? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385643)

There are bacteria that eat oil, but they work very very slowly. This should not be surprising given the quantity of oil just sitting there in the ground, undigested.

Re:why the surprise? (2)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 8 months ago | (#46386269)

The oil in the ground is undigested because there is no oxygen present, not because it takes a long time to digest it. n-alkanes, some of the most abundant compounds in oil, are the ones that are eaten first by bacteria once the oil is in the environment.

Re:why the surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386233)

Yeah, just wait 400 years and everything will be fine.

Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385505)

And still no fines have been paid! It's good to be crazy rich and criminally immune... God bless the U.S.A.

Re:Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385557)

I guess $900 million is equivalent to nothing in your world [esginsider.com] ? I mean, Alaska even has a fund set up to manage those payments [state.ak.us] . Perhaps you need to look outside your little "ThinkProgress" world...

Re: Figures (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385871)

The fine was for $5 billion+, after twenty years they settled out of court for pennies on the dollar, I'd say they paid nothin!

shale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385563)

It has to be cheaper to extract oil from a beach than from shale.

And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385567)

Where the fuck did you expect it to go? It doesn't just disappear because you've forgotten about it!

A few suggestions so this does not happen again (0)

blindseer (891256) | about 8 months ago | (#46385733)

It's very unfortunate that the oil spill happened, that was a lot of oil that could have been used to keep people warm and fed. Much has been done already to keep something like this from happening again, just simply requiring all oil tankers to have a double hull would prevent many spills like this. The United States has already required all oil tankers that travel between US ports to have double hulls.

Less transport of crude oil in tankers would help. A really big pipeline would be nice, like the Keystone XL. More domestic oil drilling would be nice too, I understand that there is a lot of oil just off the California coast. So much it's seeping out of the ground and washing up on beaches. But, no, we can't drill for that oil. Somehow allowing "natural" oil to collect on the beach is "good" but "unnatural" oil collecting on the beach is "bad". I say that all oil on beaches is bad. Much better to burn it and get some benefit from it rather than wait for it to decompose to CO2 on its own.

I'm not a fan of oil tankers. They tend to spill and waste a lot of oil. Moving oil by rail is better, they don't spill as often or as much when they do. Pipelines are the best means we have to move oil. They spill much less often and are much easier to fix. They are much cheaper too. But the tree huggers think that if we don't build pipelines that somehow we won't be burning that oil. No, we will burn it. We will move it from where it is plentiful to where it is needed. We will just move it by means more likely to spill.

If we want to stop burning oil we need something better. By "better" I don't mean something with less carbon emissions. If less carbon output was the goal then the solution is not doing whatever it is we do with that oil. I mean like we let our food spoil and we freeze to death in our homes. Of course people suggest that is precisely what we should do, and I suggest they do it first and I'll consider it.

Conservation is an excellent goal but all it does is mean we burn a limited resource at a lower rate, we will still run out but just later. By "better" I mean something just as convenient, just as cheap, and just as safe but also more plentiful. I say we need nuclear power. Anything else means choosing between starving to death or freezing to death.

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385809)

Pipelines leak constantly. Not in huge spills, but they do leak constantly and often in considerable amounts before being noticed.

I used to write software to help various agencies track leaks in pipelines.

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386313)

Did you also have to write a software patch to patch the pipes?

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46385967)

I'm not a fan of oil tankers. They tend to spill and waste a lot of oil. Moving oil by rail is better, they don't spill as often or as much when they do. Pipelines are the best means we have to move oil. They spill much less often and are much easier to fix.

Really? Well, no [businessinsider.com] and no [bloomberg.com] .

One must be careful not to confuse the frequency of spills with the quantity spilled, or the size of a spill with how much press it gets.

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386319)

To be fair, depending on exactly what figures you focus on, rail or pipeline are better, nobody objectively knows (and tankers, though good for making the news, are usually insanely safe and cheap for transportation, and of course the only way to get things across oceans affordably). The one number that pipeline supporters can point to is that it is far safer for the crews involved, with fewer moving vehicles and all. But environmentally anyone that says they know for sure that one way or the other is better is just making stuff up.

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386015)

The shills are out tonight...

Re:A few suggestions so this does not happen again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386603)

I'm not a fan of oil tankers. They tend to spill and waste a lot of oil.

Actually, oil tankers have one of the highest transport efficiencies (of all methods of transport!) on the planet. Not by 10%, by like an order of magnitude.

HMMMM (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#46385739)

"It's like mayonnaise left out on the counter. The surface will crust over, but the inside of the clump still looks like mayonnaise,"

I don't understand that analogy. Does someone have a car analogy to explain it for me?

Re:HMMMM (3, Funny)

laejoh (648921) | about 8 months ago | (#46386119)

Here you are: "It's like mayonnaise left out on the roof of your car. The surface will crust over, but the inside of the clump still looks like mayonnaise,"

Well sequestered? (0)

uncqual (836337) | about 8 months ago | (#46385791)

So, it sounds like the oil is sequestered under rocks. Sure, things that once lived under those particular rocks may not do well, but the oil is obviously being kept out of the broader environment. Eventually bacteria will transform the sequestered sludge into something that's fairly harmless and that will eventually disperse. Meanwhile the 99.9999% of the organisms of the type that lived under those rocks, but didn't actually live under those specific rocks, will go on as if nothing has happened.

Seems like a good outcome.

Sure, it would have been better if the tanker hadn't crashed, but it did - time to move on after (as has been done) reducing the chances of similar environmental impact in the future (now, if we could just due that for cruise ships in Italy).

We worry too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46386011)

Hm. 25 years. And yet, no massive die-offs, no world-wide consequences. In the words of Jurassic Park, "life finds a way." A little less hysteria would be a good thing.

How do they know this is Exxon oil? (-1, Flamebait)

Chrisq (894406) | about 8 months ago | (#46386287)

Seriously every beach I've been to, from the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, North Sea UK, South coast UK has had globules of hardened tar-like oil. I think these must be floating in the ocean world wide. How do they know that this is from the Exxon spill not just general oil in the oceans?

Magically (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about 8 months ago | (#46386379)

Deep Water horizon is all cleaned up. All gone.

It does? (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 8 months ago | (#46386627)

Irvine explains. It's like mayonnaise left out on the counter. The surface will crust over, but the inside of the clump still looks like mayonnaise, she explains.'"

Hate to think what this girls kitchen looks like.

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